Columbus,Ohio(KAIT) - Memphis native Quinton "Rampage" Jackson earned a win in a tough three round decision Saturday night against Keith Jardine and in turn, won a shot to get his light heavyweight title back.
Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (30-7 MMA, 5-1 UFC) earned a chance to earn his 205-pound belt back in a May showdown with current champ Rashad Evans.
The bout capped off a night of exciting bouts and furious finishes in the pay-per-view event from the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
Jardine, written off by many observers in a bout that some considered unnecessary, utilized a mix of low kicks, his trademark awkward movements and aggressive punching to frustrate Jackson in the first -- and earning the round on two of three judges' scorecards. But the Team Jackson fighter could not parlay the success in the later rounds.
Jackson appeared to find his range in the second frame. A strong left hook dropped Jardine, and the end of the fight appeared to be nearing. But "The Dean of Mean" gathered his wits, returned to his feet and continued on. Jardine stood tough, but Jackson was settling into his comfort zone.
A few surprise takedowns in the second and third takedowns scored points, and another combination that dropped Jardine as time expired in the final frame sealed the deal. Jackson earned the clear-cut decision, but the action was far-closer than many had expected.
Following the bout, Jackson told cage side announcer Joe Rogan he was happy with his performance.
"I feel good," Jackson said. "There was a lot of pressure to come in here and fight Keith Jardine. I didn't think the pressure would get to me because I'm so experienced at fighting, I've had so many fight. But there was a lot of pressure.
"Keith is tough, really tough. I didn't expect for him to be that tough."
The win became more significant over the course of the past 24 hours. An injury forced the interim champ Frank Mir out of his recently announced UFC 98 main event with heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar. The UFC announced earlier in the evening that a win for Jackson would earn him a 205-pound title shot with Rashad Evans in the May 23 replacement main event.
Jackson's thoughts on the upcoming bout were simple.
"I want my belt back," Jackson proclaimed.
UFC 96 RESULTS:
UFC 96 Main Card Bouts:
-Quinton Jackson def. Keith Jardine by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
- Shane Carwin def. Gabriel Gonzaga by KO at 1:09, R1
- Matt Brown def. Pete Sell by TKO (punches) at 1:32, R1
- Matt Hamill def. Mark Munoz by KO (head kick) at 3:53, R1
- Gray Maynard def. Jim Miller by unanimous decision (30-27 on all judges' scorecards)
UFC 96 Preliminary Bouts:
- Tamdan McCrory def. Ryan Madigan by TKO (strikes on the ground) at 3:35, R1
- Kendall Grove def. Jason Day by TKO (strikes on the ground) at 1:32, R1
- Jason Brilz def. Tim Boetsch by unanimous decision (29-28 on all scorecards) R3
- Brandon Vera def. Mike Patt by TKO (leg kicks) at 1:27, R2
- Shane Nelson def. Aaron Riley by TKO (strikes on the ground) :44 seconds, R1